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Demonstration against deportations to Jamaica, February 2020. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Demonstration against deportations to Jamaica, February 2020. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Boris Johnson's hard-right government have shown their authoritarian hand in defying the courts to deport dozens of British-Jamaicans with spurious justifications, reports Mona Kamal

In a characteristically belligerent act and in defiance of last night’s Court of Appeal ruling, the Home Office on Tuesday morning went ahead with the mass deportation of around fifty British Jamaican individuals who had until Monday been locked up in a detention centre with no access to their families or legal teams.

Among those detained at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre awaiting deportation were eleven with indefinite leave to remain, an army veteran who had been medically discharged, a blind man whose elderly mother is his carer, a man who had lived in England for 41 years since the age of 4 and many others born in the UK, with children and families that they are now being ripped away from.

The story that is fabricated to defend this inhumanity is that these are 'foreign criminals'. Irrespective of whether they have committed offences the crucial point is that these men have already served their sentences as ordered by the courts. Unlike their white counterparts who return to their homes, these individuals are subjected to further discriminatory extra-judicial punishment purely on the basis of race.

Even before the threat of deportation, at every step along the criminal justice process a black person will have already been disadvantaged and treated in disproportionately more punitive ways than a white person with a comparable offence. Taking for example a drug related offence in male offenders: the black man is nine times more likely to have been stopped and searched, he will be fourteen times more likely to be arrested for the possession of the drugs and twice as likely to then face a charge. Even in court the black man will be 1.4 times more likely to receive a custodial sentence rather than a community disposal than a white person with a similar charge.

Now it appears that this blatant racial discrimination continues well after the sentence has been served. While one can get on with their life the other, on the basis of their race or inability to produce a passport, is further deprived of their liberty in a detention centre to await deportation to a country that is not their home.

The lessons of the hostile environment and the Windrush scandal are being wilfully disregarded by this government. Working in the NHS, I have seen how migrants have been turned into scapegoats and blamed for the crisis in health and social care provision - a crisis for which our government’s austerity policies and decisions to defund the service are wholly responsible. The tragic consequences of this are to be seen in the denial of NHS treatment, or with patients refusing to access care in time due to anxiety over their immigration status with in some instances, fatal results. Most recently, a government report published a day after the general election ruled that the deaths of three pregnant women were a direct result of fear of migrant charging meaning they did not present to emergency services in time. 

We are weeks into one of the most extreme right wing governments we have seen in decades, a party which is proudly the political home of the likes of Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins and this (arguably illegal) move to deport British nationals is just the latest example of the unmistakably racist agenda to which they are committed. With the intensified austerity agenda meaning record levels of poverty, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment will continue to be propagated as this government’s most effective political weapon of divide and rule and serves an important function to divert the anger and misery that should be directed at neoliberalism and austerity towards minorities and other already oppressed groups. This is what we must be alert to. Boris Johnson’s government has also given us an indication of the levels of authoritarianism that we can expect with their flagrant disregard of the ruling by the Court of Appeal which found that the deportations would in fact be unlawful. Broad unified resistance is therefore now more crucial than ever.

Yesterday in response to the threatened deportations, protestors who had assembled outside Downing Street managed to shut down Whitehall but it will be crucial to maintain and continue to build clear opposition to this government at every turn over the coming five years. We need to build extra-parliamentary campaigning in the streets, in the trade unions and through the movements to build collective solidarity and join up the struggles against all modes of oppression employed by this government.

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